If you're looking for bees, be prepared to be disappointed. Bees are too glorious to be spoken of in the same post as the explication of Bluebeard's insane wife. Our assignment this week is to discuss Bluebeard as a villain in our favorite version of the tale. After reading for my presentation, I was particularly intrigued by The Brothers Grimm’s Fitcher’s Bird. Simply put: this story turns you upside down and inside out without you even realizing it (unless you’re a more analytical reader than I, in which case you saw the third sister as the crazy racist she truly is). But let’s start at the beginning. First – there is no bluebeard. Especially after my reading for my presentation in class, I understood why the blue beard was so crucial in the story to mark him as the villain. In this version, all the reader has is that he’s a “sorcerer” (148) (other than the kidnapped/dead girls, but that comes later. The first paragraph usually identifies either protagonist or antagonist. In Fitcher’s Bird, it identifies the antagonist – the sorcerer). The reader is supposed to make the connection that magic = evil (which in modern day is just about the opposite – everyone wants something magical to happen to them because we connect magic with good karma in our minds). However, it makes sense that before modern science could explain many of Earth’s mysterious phenomena, magic would be a convenient excuse for the evils that permeate the world. This does limit the useful/applicable nature of the tale to a time when such an understanding would have been common. It also limits it to a time when people would have been kind and generous to the “poor, weak beggar” (148). The average man today is concerned with how to benefit himself regardless of the cost to others and passes beggars everyday on the street. The average woman should also be jaded enough (what with our 50% divorce rate, we’ve learned that most of our relationships will fail) not to feel bad for a random stranger.
This is why I particularly cannot understand the third daughter. She is supposedly “clever and cunning” (149) but she was tricked into the basket and house just as her sisters and the other girls were. Also, the other two sisters let their “curiosity [get] the better of [them]” (149) and the third daughter did as well. She simply gets away with it, but that doesn’t mean she is any better than the other two sisters.
The happy bridegroom, only trying to reward who he believes is a faithful woman, is led into a trap by her. This seems more like a tale warning men against women, for they are all devilish or stupid, it only depend whether outwardly or inwardly evil. Also, the sisters’ family “locked the doors to the house so that no one could escape. Then they set fire to it so that the sorcerer and his crew burned to death” (151). The family got all three of the sisters back in addition to a mountain of gold, but they still extracted vengeance. The sorcerer’s so called “crew” included “his guests” (151) but no where does it state that his guests participated in the sorcerer’s devilish scheme. For all the reader knows, they were completely innocent, yet they had to pay the price and burn for someone else’s crime. This seems a bit like racism or any other form of prejudice, where you blame an entire group for one person’s actions. Most often, racists lack more than understanding, they lack a connection to reality. Therefore, it only makes sense that the third sister is indeed crazy. I could extrapolate to the extreme and say that because this was published in 1812, when France was invading Germany which led to the Nazi nationalism (permeated with racism), that really the Grimms were prophetic of the dangers brewing in Germany. But that would be crazy. Just like the third sister. That’s why you don’t believe me, and that’s why you shouldn’t fall for her act either. After all, she’s a necromancer, which is much more powerful magic than simply disguising yourself as an old beggar. She simply put the pieces together and “when everything was in place, the pieces began to move and joined themselves together” (149). The bodies are reanimated and proceed to do her bidding. He orders them to hide in the basket and “send help” (150) when they reach home. These are the actions we then see them do. There are millions of dead everywhere you go, and if she could manipulate them as well, she could take over Germany herself. The audience is supposed to know (from our deep-rooted irrational fear of magic that we talked about earlier) that she is just as evil as the sorcerer, more so because she is never revealed as the danger she truly is to society. She is avenged by the town, protected by her family, and lives on to manipulate more dead people in the future.
All of the quotes come from Fitcher’s Bird by the Brothers Grimm on pages 148-151 in Maria Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales. It’s surprising how much is hidden in those four pages.